Neng Thao was born in Chiang Kham Refugee Camp in Thailand in 1993. His family first moved to Berlin, Wisconsin, and then later to Madison, Wisconsin. (Interviewed by Xeng Moua)
Neng attended Harvard University and stated that, “Harvard is unbelievable. I would undoubtedly choose it again in a heartbeat if I had to go back in time. With that said, it’s definitely not for everyone. Before matriculation, I thought perhaps everyone would stop trying so hard, as you’ve already made it to the school many consider to be the best in the world. But it was quite the opposite – the competitive nature that Harvard breeds in inexplicable.
To be honest, I also remember college as being some of the darkest times of my life too…I was never good enough, I would never get to where I wanted to go, I would not succeed, and so on and so forth…when you’re in such a formative stage in your life, that can be devastatingly emotionally hard. But on the flip side of that, the people who made me feel “untalented,” who made me feel “not good enough,” and “not smart enough,” were also the most inspiring people I have ever met in my life.”
He had a regular 9-5 job but was too frustrated and didn’t feel like it was helping him grow. So, he took the plunge and went off the beaten path. He currently works for himself as both a freelancer and a manager running his own personal brand.
He has claimed that, “I never thought this could even be a job – you’re never taught that in school, so I never “wanted” to be it, but I did always know I wanted a job where I could be independent. It’s the best job in the world. Above all, it gives me the freedom to do what I love and share that with the world. Freedom to be yourself, is a big key to happiness, so I wouldn’t choose anything else.”
Neng has traveled to twelve countries so far and works with current nonprofits and NGO’s in those countries helping the local population. His advice to the young professionals out there who wants to follow their dreams is, “As a first generation refugee, you are taught to play it safe – the risk of “failing” is scary when there are so many secure ways to climb at least a few rungs on the social ladder. And there is nothing wrong with that thought process – I admire it a lot and even support it. But if you have a different dream, then by all means, chase it! Every cliché thing you hear about chasing your dreams becomes true, and that’s a self-perpetuating cycle to living a fulfilling life. I think that’s what it means to truly live happy life.”
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